On Scotter Ward we always like to try and use experiential learning in teaching sessions as it makes it much more meaningful to those taking part.
We already had a bariatric empathy suit within the trust moving and handling department but wanted something that would emulate the way an older frail person may feel Donna had seen a training suit being used in a hospital on social media whilst working in her previous role as a Clinical Nurse Educator.
When Charitable Funds became available she started to explore whether we could use something similar here at our trust Lincolnshire Community Health Services.
We purchased a Gerontologic Test suit (GERT). The suit is a specially designed age simulation suit which gives the staff member a chance to gain a greater understanding of the physical strains their patients suffer. It has different elements that can be worn from head to toe.
Each part is designed to make the wearer feel the physical effects often associated with old age, such as joint stiffness, loss of strength and reduced grip, coordination and head mobility. It can even change the opacity of the eye lens, narrow the visual field and simulate high-frequency hearing loss.
Two additions to the suit were purchased, a hemiparesis simulator to mimic how a stroke patient may feel and a tremor simulator. The tremor simulator is being used as part of our Parkinson’s Disease awareness sessions where gloves attached to electrodes can be worn to emulate a Parkinson’s tremor which really helps the staff to gain a little understanding of how the patient feels.
The GERT cost approximately £2,000 and was bought using donations from our LCHS Charitable Funds – a registered charity which supports innovative projects to enhance services and facilities that would not be funded by the NHS.
The suit is going to be a valuable addition to the resources available to us for training and in helping our colleagues to empathise with some of the conditions which commonly affect our patients.